Viruses keep IT companies in business. Though it’s not the kind of busy that IT technicians like to be. Technicians want to keep moving forward and employing more challenging technologies so they can keep playing with more neat toys.
Unfortunately, our Help Desk techs spend a lot of time cleaning up computers even though we deploy anti-virus software on all workstations we deploy. The reality is that hackers are, despite the misconceptions, very hard working individuals. They are driven by the intrigue and challenge of developing more stealth applications that work under the surface. See, if you don’t know you’re infected, then you won’t make an effort to have your computer cleaned and the longer they can sit on your computer acquiring more information.
Their dedication to viruses has brought an evolution of the viruses to what’s called a “botnet” which is a figurative term for the robot that travels through the net deploying agents to computers as it travels. These botnets are designed to work unnoticeably on your computer recording keystrokes, recording passwords and credit card numbers, then relaying the information back to it’s homebase.
How do you know if you’re infected?
- Your computer has slowed down. Trust your instincts when it comes to your computer. It’s one of the most intimate relationships we have with machines as we spend hours working closely together with our devices. Observe the nuances and if something’s changed where your computer is running slower, and you haven’t made any significant changes to it to cause a slowdown, then it’s a red flag.
- Annoying pop-up ads. If you are getting pop-up ads that you can’t make go away, then you probably have “adware” loaded on your computer. These can be installed when you visit different sites that make their revenue from advertising. The more ads that pop up on screens, the more “impressions” they register. Advertising is sold based on the amount of impressions that an advertising company can guarantee. Therefore, they create applications that will automatically produce ads on your computer. Unfortunately, these are disruptive, drain processor resources, and generally annoying.
- Autopilot takes over. If your computer is taking you to websites that you didn’t direct it to, then it’s another red flag. You’re the boss of your computer, not the other way around. So if it’s performing actions you didn’t direct it to do, you have a problem.
Things you can do to protect yourself:
- Anti-virus software. This is the first MUST. With any computer that has access to the net, one of the first things to do before letting it ride into the unknown is to install an antivirus software like Norton’s (starting at $39.95) or AVG. Remember, just like cars, computers require maintenance so make sure it’s set up to do regular updates and scans. Hackers are constantly developing new strands and your a/v software needs to know to have the latest immunizations and antibiotics to combat the new strands.
- Regular check-ups. Ideally, we’d like to think that we buy a computer, we get it up and running and for the next 3-5 years it’ll just run and run without hiccups or outages. Ideal but not realistic. Today’s machines get quite a workout and you’ll need to have regular check-ups by trained professionals so it can keep running at optimal performance. A little investment once a year and you’ll make it back quickly throughout the year as you will experience less downtimes, shorter boot-up times, and quicker performance.
- Defragging. One of the most overlooked yet simplest functions is good organization of your hard drive. Over time you hard drive becomes stuffed with files and when you ask it to recall those files, the processor has to sift through all of those scattered files to find the exact one you’re looking for. If you’re like me, you’re too busy to remember to defragment your hard drive. You can program Windows to do basic defrags, or go one better and make a small investment in software. Diskeeper (as low as $29.95) is a software that will regularly do intensive re-organizations, or defrags, so you don’t even have to think about it—it just happens.
If you think you’re infected, don’t waste time, get in touch with George Jon + Associates techs and have them tune-up your computer. Ignoring it can make the situation worse. In some of the worst case scenarios, your information is compromised, data is stolen, or it might not turn out to be an easy cleanup. In some cases it requires a complete re-install of your operating system and hopefully, you’ve backed up your data ahead of time to ensure you retain all of the data—in an uncorrupted format.
The WWW (World Wide Web) is really the Wild, Wild West of today. The web certainly has made our world much more fascinating, productive and technically advanced. However, that comes with equal risks. At the end of the day, it’s this simple: invest a bit upfront in your equipment & software, and you’ll be happy that you never have to worry about these things.
Knowledge is power, now you’re armed.